"Let me ref the game". This is something The Rugby Ref says to the team Captains before the game, but do the Captains pass it on and what does it mean?
It is linked to the fact that rugby referees have a wide latitude to "manage the game", rather than blindly following the laws of the game. What does this mean, how does it work; and more importantly how does it affect the players?
Let's have a look at some figures. At the following breakdowns I have listed the approximate number of offences that The Rugby Ref could penalise a team for:
Lineout, 45 possible offences
Scrum, 45 possible offences
Tackle, 23 possible offences
Ruck, 19 possible offences
Maul, 14 possible offences
What you can see straight away, from those numbers, is that if The Rugby Ref wants to be pedantic and play to the letter of the law, he could find something to penalise at every single breakdown. However this is where referees have to apply materiality and use their management skills, if they didn't the game would take place on a patch of grass ten feet square!
By the same token players need to learn to "let me ref the game". Just because The Rugby Ref hasn't blown his whistle, doesn't mean he hasn't seen an offence. The Rugby Ref sees everything, but then he has to decide, "do I need to blow for this offence?", or "is this offence having a material affect on the game?". If the answer to either questions is 'Yes' then The Rugby Ref next needs to decide, "do I play advantage?", "do I wait to see what happens next?", or "do I blow straight away?". All of these decisions need to be made in the blink of an eye.
When players point out perceived offences to The Rugby Ref, they are not seeing the "big picture". They are not seeing that it may be to their advantage to keep playing, they are not seeing that the player on the floor is not in anyones way and is having no effect on the game, even though technically he may be committing an offence. They also don't realise that they make it very hard for The Rugby Ref to penalise the offence, without giving the impression that he is acting on their instructions!
If the players want The Rugby Ref to penalise every single offence that happens, as soon as it happens, then The Rugby Ref can do so; but the players won't get much of a game. Likewise The Rugby Ref can't go the other way and ignore offences just to allow a full running game of Rugby. So The Rugby Ref has to "manage" the game.......and the players need to keep quiet.
In other words.......let me ref the game.